October 6th, 2008
10:15 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama camp raises McCain’s ties to Charles Keating

The Obama camp is highlighting McCain's ties to Charles Keating.

The Obama camp is highlighting McCain's ties to Charles Keating.

(CNN) - After months of avoiding references to the decades-old “Keating Five” scandal that nearly derailed John McCain’s political career, Barack Obama’s campaign is highlighting the Republican presidential nominee’s ties to Charles Keating, an Arizona businessman who went to prison during the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

The campaign is releasing a new 13-minute “documentary” about the scandal, and sending a message to supporters that ties McCain to the federal bailout that followed.

A preview of the new Web video, "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis," shows clips of McCain's hearings before the Senate Ethics Committee two decades ago, as the narrator says "the Keating Five involved all the things that have brought the modern crisis” and that McCain "has not learned the lessons and has continued to follow policies that are going to produce a disaster."

Watch: 'Keating 5' dogs McCain

McCain was one of five senators, dubbed the "Keating Five," who met with regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, the owner of Lincoln Savings and Loan.

Listen: McCain aides fight back over Keating on a campaign conference call

In a message to supporters Sunday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe tied McCain to the lack of oversight that led to the savings and loan crisis of that era, and the massive federal bailout package that resulted. "During the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s, McCain's political favors and aggressive support for deregulation put him at the center of the fall of Lincoln Savings and Loan," Plouffe writes. "More than 23,000 investors lost their savings. Overall, the savings and loan crisis required the federal government to bail out the savings of hundreds of thousands of families and ultimately cost American taxpayers $124 billion."

The Obama campaign had largely avoided mentioning the disgraced Arizona financier for most of the year. After an Obama backer referenced the Keating Five scandal this spring, the campaign appeared to distance itself from the comment — but Obama signaled it might be fair game later in the year: "I was just asked previously about a whole host of associations that are a lot more flimsy than John McCain’s relationship to Keating Five," he told reporters.

Two weeks ago, as controversy over deregulation and financial oversight began to dominate the public consciousness and the McCain campaign started to step up its attacks over Obama’s associations with controversial Chicago figures, Obama spokesman Bill Burton raised the issue for the first time since May. The McCain camp had accused the New York Times of supporting Obama's presidential bid; Burton responded by sending reporters a list of investigative stories the paper had run about the Illinois senator, complaining that McCain’s relationship with Keating had not come up for similar scrutiny over the course of the campaign.

The Senate Ethics Committee investigated and cleared McCain in 1991, but said that he showed poor judgment in his efforts for Keating, who had been a major contributor to his campaign. McCain later turned over $112,000 in campaign contributions from Keating to the U.S. Treasury.
The documentary will be released online at noon.

The move comes two days after Gov. Sarah Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists who target their own country" because he was supported by Bill Ayers, a founding member of the Weather Underground.

Responding to the new attacks over McCain’s history with Keating, the GOP nominee’s spokesman Brian Rogers raised those links again.

"John McCain has been open and honest about the Keating matter, and even the Democratic special counsel in charge recommended that Senator McCain be completely exonerated,” said Rogers. “By contrast, Barack Obama has been fundamentally dishonest about his friendship and work with the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, whose radical group bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. Nor has Barack Obama come clean on his close friendship with Tony Rezko, a felon convicted on bribery charges who subsidized the purchase of Barack Obama's home. It's obvious that Barack Obama is frantically attacking because he knows that most voters find these kinds of friendships, and the failed judgment they expose, to be unacceptable for our next president."

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Deb

    It is unbelievable that John McCain has decided to use these kinds of tactics in such trying times. I need someone who can help me put my child through college, maintain my job and retire with dignity. Smears started by the McCain camp and Sara Palin who has enough skeletons in her closet does not help me meet my goals.

    Let's elect a president willing to fight on the issues not smear their oponents. I am glad however, that Obama is fighting back.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |

    I LOVE IT.



    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. deidre

    Barack Obama
    and I do not play politics as usual,

    uh until I need to do it to win.


    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. Zelda

    its about time.

    The fear tactics from McCain are vomitous. They have NOTHING to say for how they will make America Stronger! At least this goes to the very weak moral fiber of John McCain!

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  5. Lifelong Republican supporting Obama

    Good attack ad! Obama needs to keep them coming, responding aggressively and proactively to McCain's Rove-tactics of lies and fear.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  6. Republicans Hate America

    Awsome now that we are on the character topic McCain will be on the defense because his crap stinks a lot more.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  7. Kathy

    About time they bring this up!

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  8. Jay

    Good for the Obama camp. If Mccain wants to fight, then lets get the boxing gloves ready!

    Obama 08

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  9. Paul, EP Tx

    America loves to build people up just to tear them down, and McCain and Obama will each be receiving hate from half the country.... this show is in it's third act. I believe these are both great man, but politics is cut-throat, that's just the nature of the beast, and ANYONE who enters the arena knows this and practices it. Americans that are too delusional or self-righteous to accept this fact are living in a different world.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  10. Oppose Zig Zag Express

    It is about time the American people know why McCain claims he does not know much about Economics.(hiding Keating five scandal)

    It is about time the American people know that this kind of Financial mess is not new to John McCain ,he has been destroying the American financial system for decades!!

    It is about time the American people know McCain is worse than Bush.

    It is about time the American people say to McCain Enough is Enough!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  11. demwit

    Yeah, let's compare Obama's direct ties to Chicago mobsters and American terrorists to McCain being cleared of any wrong doing by the sitting prosecutor..

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  12. sensiblegal

    Now that's palling around!! Sarah Palin is a cancer to this election.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  13. Kos

    Uh oh. Here comes trouble for McCain. After all the smears on Obama, he wouldn't think he'd get away with Keating 5 would he?

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  14. PUMBU

    Reveal who millionaire McCain is, let American people know him.

    October 6, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  15. PALIN can I ask you a question? Yes, after the election.

    About time the did this.

    When is someone from the so-called christian right going to denounce Sarah Palin’s glorification of alcohol. She knew a lot of kids and young adults were watching the debates yet that didn’t stop her from refering to herself as JOE SIXPACK AMERICAN. She should be required to enroll in AA.

    MADD needs to put out an ad against this.

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. Bob

    This is becoming like the Kevin Bacon game. How many degrees of separation can put your opponent to a crook? Ayers is at least 3 degrees to Obama, Keating is less.

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. tired of delusional blind sheep

    MEOW ***** gnarl

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  18. jo

    the economy stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  19. Dem voting McCain

    Looks like Obama can smear with the best of them. Why don't the Obamabots start preaching to him? When he does it, it is justified and when McCain does it, it is "swift-boating"? First, learn the definition of "swift-boating" and second, realize that your "savior" Obama is nothing more than a filthy politician.

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  20. Glenn in California

    What goes around, comes around. It's sad that Obama has to respond to the lame distraction and diversion tactics that the McLame campaign has now resorted to. Since McCain has nothing new to offer other than Obama's stolen slogans, he's sunk to where he has nothing left to campaign on. Pathetic.

    Just say NO to Bush 44.

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Sujith, NE

    About time.

    O8ama !

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  22. Please Post this CNN

    CNN, I hope that you guys do your jobs & show this ad over & over again just like you have subjected us to Sarah Failin's lunatic attacks all day yesterday & today. They want to attack Barack for someone he was on a board with that committed an act when he was 8, but John McCain was directly involved in this corruption scandal. This is huge because it is the exact same thing that we just went through with the Wall Street attack.
    John McCain needs to tell Miss Moosebreath to shut her trap because now it's on. She has too many skeletons in her closet to be throwing bs bombs.

    Also I am in Nashville, TN & we have the town decked out for Barack for tomorrow's debate. McPalin's a joke!!!! Go Barack!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  23. inat

    Did you forget that McCain wasn't charged and even praised for his cooperation? McCain has the same involvment in this as did John Glenn, a democrat "star"

    this is non-news and if this is the worse you can come up with, then John McCain is obviously a great politician

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  24. Darryl Arlington Obama Supporter

    Why did Senator McCain Go to Jail?

    Look at what his wife Cindy McCain and son Andrew K McCain did to Salt Lake State Bank I see it runs in the family??

    Again the McCain 's are not held accountable for the actions...

    Please send the McCain family to Jail!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  25. Lifelong Republican supporting Obama

    Obama must balance attacks with offering concrete plans for America's future. The only thing McCain has left are false attacks. He has absolutely no clue on how to solve America's current woes.

    October 6, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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